Randomness (r_ness) wrote,

File this under "unintended results".

For October's Golden Week, the semi-annual week-long (eight days, this time) holiday ending this Sunday, the Chinese authorities suspended highway tolls for passenger cars nationwide.*

“Small-size motor passenger vehicles with seven seats or less can pass free of charge from 12:00 a.m, September 30, to 12:00 a.m. October 8”
(Images and captions from the Ministry of Tofu blog.)

Anyone who has tried driving down the Northeast Corridor on Memorial Day weekend, or south from Paris at the beginning of August can tell you what happened next.

September 30, 7 a.m., near a toll station in Shenzhen.

September 30, 7 a.m., near a toll station in Shenzhen, drivers come out for a stretch of arms and legs.

They got the mother of all traffic jams.

Along with more photos--find the golden arches in the background of the shot of the woman walking her dog--that Ministry of Tofu blog article also gives some examples:
To put that in perspective, a reporter with Morning Post spent 5 hours on his trip from Shanghai to Hangzhou, a city 170 kilometers (106 miles) away, and it took another woman 10 hours to finish her 305-km (190 miles) journey from Shanghai from Nanjing.
From CNN:
Chinese officials estimate more than 85 million travelers hit the road Sunday, the first day of an eight-day holiday week, according to China's state-run media. Many drivers were trying to take advantage of a new policy that waives the toll on expressways during holidays, according to Xinhua.

This could've helped boost road traffic by 13% compared with last year's holiday, reported the news agency.


Li Daokui, the director of the Center for China in the World Economy at the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management, questioned the wisdom of no tolls on holidays.

"Highway toll free on holidays? We are making a world record of stupidity by launching this policy. To price is a social coordination mechanism and going free of charge is like a shout-out to the public: '1,2,3, let's go jam the road!'" he posted on weibo.
It's noteworthy that suspending tolls is really about giving a break to Chinese who are middle-class and above, because poor Chinese (most of the country) cannot afford cars. There's been no discount for travel by bus, and the high cost of trucking still gets passed on to all consumers.

ETA: For comparison, AAA estimated before the holiday that 38.2 million Americans planned to drive over the 2011 Thanksgiving weekend.

*This is an much bigger deal in China than it would be in the US because nearly all limited-access highways in China--the equivalent of Interstates in the US--charge high tolls averaging about 12 cents a mile. That would work out to be over $50 in tolls alone to drive the 450 miles from Boston to Washington, or over $45 for 380 miles from SF to LA. One way.
Tags: travel
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